Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reading Your Self-Esteem

In our culture there is no shortage of books on self-esteem. Currently the most popular topic in the self esteem department is shame and vulnerability. You will often hear women using words such as brave, daring, great, and imperfect. Thanks Brene!

For Lent my church has been reading “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” by Richard Rohr and I belong to a book group that is reading “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are; Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life” by academic researcher Brene Brown. Both books discuss similar topics but in much different ways. I am only part way through both books, but I’ve already noticed some important differences between the two.

 

Falling Upward and Gifts

I’m thankful for Brown’s material on shame becoming popular and mainstream. Shame is not an emotion we have been taught to recognize, address and eliminate when necessary. Because of Brene Brown’s popularity, her research and media appearances have shown society the damage that comes from living a life of constant shame. Her book and her talks on the Oprah network have been great for helping people who have issues with their own sense of shame, but I find her work is seriously lacking in helping people recognize when they shame others or stifle the vulnerability of others.  As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, when people are hurt, they tend to hurt others. I wish her book had dedicated some space to dealing with this truth. If you are not able to take ownership for the shame and hurt that you impose onto other people; then you are not really living the wholehearted life that Brown has been teaching.

unlearning

It’s important to be able to list all the wonderfully great things about ourselves, but we have to remember we are human. Our list of self descriptions need to include both the positive and the negative. As Brown likes to remind us, we are all imperfect. Am I a kind person? Yes I am. But I also know that I am impatient, which means that at times I can also be an unkind person. Does this make me a bad person? No. It simply means I am human and need to be able to recognize when I hurt others and make any necessary amends.

Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” goes deeper than Brown’s work. This might be because he is a Franciscan priest which makes it nearly impossible for him not to delve deeply into human behaviour. He makes it clear to readers that our inability to accept that challenges in our lives are a necessary part of being human is what helps to create the “unnecessary suffering” so many people experience. He references Carl Jung in stating, “he said neurotic behaviour is usually the result of refusing that legitimate suffering! Ironically, this refusal of the necessary pain of being human brings to the person ten times more suffering in the long run.”

let things go

Feelings and emotions are complex. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to experience change or transformation; we must accept the fact that the process is uncomfortable at times and requires life long work. Those who suffer from addictions never claim to have been cured or free from their addictions; they know that at any time they could easily fall back into old habits and coping mechanisms. I feel this is how we should view personal change; never fool yourself into believing you’ve got everything figured out.

 

The Joy of Celebrity Mental Illness and Breakdowns

 

credit: Maria Fitzsimons/WENN.com
credit: Maria Fitzsimons/WENN.com

Celebrities having mental health issues is not new. Every year there is a celebrity or former celebrity who announces to the world that they have a mental illness. There are also celebrities who have not yet been diagnosed with a DSM-5 condition, but I wish they would be. I hate watching famous people have mental breakdowns with the world watching as entertainment.

Our society has conditioned us not to be cruel towards those with cognitive disabilities or mental illness, but only if they are not famous or a politician. Some how I get the feeling people enjoy making fun of mentally ill celebrities because they don’t get to do so in their every day life.

Consider this:

Have you ever called a bi-polar woman you know a *&^$# @!#&*?

Would you send an email to the management team at your workplace informing them they are all sociopaths?

When a people tell you they have depression, would you look them in the face and call them an attention seeking whiner?

Source: about-face.org
Source: about-face.org

I caution people, that when they are on social media or in group conversations; be aware of how you make references towards mental illness and those who have it. I am definitely guilty of using the words “crazy”, “stupid”, “idiot”, and “dumb” on occasion. These words have been applied to all sorts of nouns in my conversations such as: “That was crazy!”, “Vegan cheese is dumb.”, “That is so stupid, why would anyone buy that?”. Over time I’ve done my best to consciously replace them with other words such as, “well alright then.”, “I see.”, “Interesting.”, or my favourite, “What the….”.

When we talk cruelly about a celebrity’s mental illness or symptoms of illness, we are not just speaking about that specific celebrity; we are unconsciously expressing how we feel about the traits of that person’s illness. No wonder people are afraid to speak openly about having been diagnosed.

Say all you want to about Kanye West and his nonsensical rants, his self-comparison’s to great achievers of the past, and his belief that he is one of the greatest humans to have ever lived; but do so knowing that he presents as possibly having a DSM-5 condition. A mentally healthy person does not behave as Kanye does. A mentally healthy person does not believe the things that Kanye West professes.

Kanye West and Jesus

We were entertained by Charlie Sheen’s mental breakdown and his tiger blood. We laughed at Jason Russell’s naked psychosis. We enjoyed Britney Spear’s bi-polar misadventures in parenthood and driving. We waited with anticipation to see what Amanda Bynes would do or wear next.

Our society needs to stop finding joy in watching other’s have mental breakdowns. The symptoms of mental illness are not for entertainment.

 

Give To Others What You Need

Source: Flickr juliocrockett
Source: Flickr juliocrockett

“So let yourself feel satisfaction when you do a good deed for someone else. But remind yourself that we are no less hungry for love than those to whom we extend it. When our generosity is born of our poverty rather than our wealth – our need rather than our means – we are bound more closely to one another and more closely approach God’s intention that, be we man or woman, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, beggar or king, we can only be grateful that God gives us life and with it the ability to affect the lives of one another.” Erik Kolbell

Lately I’ve been re-reading two books that have been on my shelves for several years; Erik Kolbell’s The God of Second Chances and Wil Hernandez’s Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension. Both writers take complex processes and help readers try to make something out of spiritual experiences that we will never fully understand. Polarity is a part of our religion and our faith which we cannot escape, but it certainly hasn’t stopped people from trying.

Our Help

There are many instances when I’ve forgotten something I had already learned. And unlike the forgotten major and minor piano chords or first year biology, it’s in my best interest to remember and practice the spiritual lessons I have been taught.

I have been doing front line work with vulnerable populations for over a decade. In addition to work, I have always been an active volunteer. It wasn’t until re-reading the passage from Erik Kolbell that I had a different understanding of what is involved in giving to others. I came from the framework of giving to others because I have something to give and that I could only give what I had. I thought, “How can one give away what they don’t have in the first place?” But I now realize how giving and serving works at a deeper, spiritual level.

We are all in need of something and if we keep this biblical principal in mind, we can prevent ourselves from forgetting this. You’re not a middle-class person giving to those in poverty, you are actually a person with one type of poverty giving to someone with a different type of poverty. You aren’t a good wife who is giving love to her children, you are a mother who loves her children and at the same time you are in need of their love as well. The concept is simple, but the action is difficult; we all need each other.

QUESTION:

Keeping in mind that we are all in need of something, how does this affect how you give to others?

ACTION:

Make a mental or physical list of things (tangible or emotional) in life that you know you need. Make a mental or physical list of things (tangible or emotional) that you have given to others in the past month. Make time to pray over the list and give God thanks for what you’ve been able to give to others and those that you have been able to receive.

 

 

 

Basic Christians: Labels and meaning

Church Lady SNL

We’ve all heard the term “basic b___”, from here on I’ll use the word “basic” because I have no need to refer a woman as a b___. If you haven’t already become familiar with the pejorative, the simplest definition of a basic is the woman who, “like(s) popular, mainstream products or music.” (Source: Wikipedia) 2014 was the year online media took to defining the term with various qualifiers for being a basic.

You were labelled as a basic if you owned or have ever owned Uggs, Michael Kors handbags, love your seasonal Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or wear brand named yoga pants even though you don’t attend yoga classes.” The list of criteria is never ending and will never cease because people love trends and long to be part of whatever has been deemed popular.

I’m not ashamed to say that for a non-basic woman, I sure do engage in a lot of basicness. I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes, I wear yoga pants almost every day of the week, I posted a picture to Facebook of an Aromatic Chai Tea Latte that I had tried for the first time in a local vegan restaurant frequented mostly by non-vegans, and a host of other faux pas that make a woman basic.

I don’t pay too much attention to what is considered basic because I don’t follow trends; I’m not in a financial position to live like that, but when I do pay attention it is because I’ve grown tired of basic behaviour. Lately I’ve been craving a more spiritual and deeper level of Christian community among other females, but instead I’ve encountered one too women who want to bring their basic behaviour into sacred spaces such as bible studies, workshops, and times of prayer, to name a few.

When I gather with other females for times of biblical uplifting, edification, and character strengthening, the last thing I want to do is talk about trendy, mundane topics. I’m all for having fun, but not when it is time to be serious. Being basic can be a problem if you’re not able to stop being so basic when necessary.

If women don’t learn to make time to put aside their basicness and enter the world of depth, they run the risk of delaying their spiritual growth. I was made aware of an example of this while in the midst of a conversation with some other women from church where the shallow conversations revolved around stories about being drunk on vodka mixes, wanting to take pole dancing classes, and going out to a local Latino bar for Salsa lessons because the men make them feel sexy and sensual while dancing. One of the most annoying parts of the conversation went something like this,

Married Christian Woman: “I love Black men.”

Me: “Oh you’re married to a Black man?”

MCW: “No, but Black men like me because I have a big booty.”

Me: “Oh, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment. Are you comfortable with being big?”

MCW: “Well, Black men tell me they like my booty, so that’s a compliment.”

Me: “Oh. O.K.”

I had an issue with this particular person because I know that as fellow Christians we could and most likely never would sit down together and have a spiritual conversation about things such as Ferguson, the role of socio-economic status in racism, and the cultural impact of absentee Black men in single family households. The shallowness of these conversations isn’t only related to race. I have never been able to engage with many women at my local church about a variety of issues facing our society. In other words, these women are not only basic in their taste, but also in their Christian walk.

You're Basic!

As I venture towards a new phase in my walk of faith, I remind myself and encourage others not to fall into the trap of being Basic Christians. It’s perfectly alright to be a basic woman, you are free to wear, watch, and eat what you please, but to do so in your relationship with God and within your Christian community is never a spiritually healthy way to live. Jesus was never basic about his journey of faith, if he was, it would have meant thinking and living just like everyone else, and he never did that. Instead, Jesus listened to our Father and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide him towards his calling in life which was to show us the way to a godly relationship with God and others. Let’s not allow a basic way of living prevent us from venturing towards the deeply spiritual, unique and meaningful life that God has gifted each and every believer with. God and His Holy Spirit has never been basic and that means our relationship with God will never be like that either. Peace.

QUESTIONS: What areas in your life show signs of being ‘basic’? (Follows trends, likes what everyone else likes, focused on social status, limited in authenticity, lacking in depth or thought, etc.)

Does your faith (relationship with God and relationship with others) reflect basic behaviour?

This month think of one thing that you’d like to do/see/purchase/try that is not considered mainstream or trendy. Examples might be: going to see a documentary on a topic of interest, reading bible verses in less familiar English translations you’re not used to, listening to a sermon from a pastor that has a different ethnic or cultural background from yourself, reading a book that never made it to the best sellers list.

ACTION: Pray and ask God to reveal areas where you have stopped giving thought to why you do the things you do? (e.g.

Different Christian woman

 


 

Below is extra reading for those who want to explore the topic further. The quote is from the comments section of an October 2014 article on NYMAG.com.  

“ 2. For what it’s worth, to me the word “basic” expresses a frustration with the culture deeper than an overprevalence (sic) of lattes. It’s about when one’s highest aspiration in life is to be… comfortable. This is what I mean by a “basic b__”:

  • doesn’t read
  • listens to dumbed-down, repetitive, feel-good music, if any
  • has little to no knowledge of anything that happened before her living memory
  • has little-thought-out opinions on complex issues, which she probably got straight from someone/ somewhere else
  • has a comformist (sic), average appearance- hair, clothes, make-up, everything
  • almost never challenges the status quo
  • almost never expresses or acknowledges deep/complex emotions, even to those she is close to
  • lacks a sense of larger-scale empathy with humanity- from not caring about events in other countries to being extremely self-absorbed in day-to-day human interactions; usually arrogant to service employees and an obnoxious driver
  • spends an inordinate amount of money on unnecessary consumer products
  • attempts to reference pop culture trends in a shallow, uninvested (sic) way
  • ultimately, takes no interest in learning about or accomplishing anything of significance in life; just wants to be entertained, get new stuff, and fit a certain image

This is not an attack on femininity- which can be intelligent, sophisticated, powerful, creative, subtle, and clever. Men can be “basic” too… But there is a historical and cultural stereotype that women should be childlike, or simple-minded.

Ironically, “basic” women (as I have defined them) are actually the ones who are submitting to a male hierarchy of culture. Most significant aspects of culture- politics, academics, economics- have traditionally been the province of men. Women who only care for frivolous things perpetuate the equivalence of femininity with a juvenile status.

Being “basic” is not about being feminine. It’s about being a child.”

http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/10/what-do-you-really-mean-by-basic-bitch.html?mid=pinterest-share-thecut (comments section, Oct 16, 2014).